Wind Up My Keyhole: My History with The Dark Tower

posted Jun 2, 2012, 2:55 PM by Joshua M. Patton
Much like every writer that has been formed in the bowels of nerd Hades, Stephen King is very responsible for how much I wanted to write. In fact, after reading a few of his novels as a very young (too young, really) child, I even wrote him a letter telling him how much I hoped to supplant him as one of the most successful living American writers, or maybe it was more of a fan letter...who really knows? What shocked me was getting a signed postcard as a reply, along with words of encouragement.  So since I was Stephen King-approved, I dove into his works. And I found The Gunslinger.  

I am not sure when I started reading The Dark Tower series, but I remember reading the third book and wondering how he was going to bring the series to a close, with only a few pages left to read. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that it wasn't a trilogy. So, I had to wait. This was before the internet and communication was done through a series of smoke-signals and banging on rocks. There was no information about when the next book in the series would be published. I was a mess. Later, when fans of the show LOST would be panicked and half-crazy because they couldn't wait for whatever was next, I would bend down, give them a sip of water and tell them, "I started reading The Dark Tower in the 80's." And they look at me, thankful, because they know I understand.

Flash-forward to Christmas 1997. I was elated, because two things for which I had been waiting for were under my tree. The first new Metallica album since their eponymous "Black Album," and Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass. I had my discman ready to go with the CD and the book ready to crack. Then, my grandmother had a heart attack. Don't worry she's fine. Well no, actually she's dead now, but she lived for many years after this particular occurence. I have a very clear memory however of sitting on the floor in the hallway of Suburban General Hospital (also now dead) and listening to Metallica and going to Mid-World.  

I am certain it was because of the amount of hype that I had been building for both of these things and the fact that my little teenage heart was broken and terrified that my grandmother was about to die, but both of these pieces of art, the album and the book, let me down.  I have since gone back and revisited these works and realize that they are quite good. But at the time, I wanted more thundering metal and more Roland and the Gang following the Beam and fightin' bad guys.  I did not want Marianne Faithful and a hundreds of pages-long flashback.  

When the series was finally over, I finished the final book on my rack in Iraq. The end, pissed me off. I seethed, calling it a cop-out and horseshit, but again, it was the problem of anticipation. Just like those LOST fans can tell you, the end of a story you love never quite meets your expectations (sole exception: Harry Mutha-Effin' Potter). I have yet to reread that final book, but when I do, I bet it will be different. Anticipation makes for harsher criticism than is sometimes deserved....

(This blew up longer than I expected. The actual post about "Wind Through the Keyhole," shall follow this lengthy one. But, I think you needed the context to understand what's coming.)